Churches across denominations have been assessing the damages incurred by Hurricane Ivan – the third and deadliest hurricane to hit the Florida coast in the last month. While downed power-lines, debris and wreckages have slowed the evaluation, most churches reported severe damages to property but no losses in lives.
The "death toll caused by Ivan on the U.S. mainland continues to increase as search and rescue teams assess the devastated areas. Ivan spawned many tornadoes as it came on shore and inundated many with more rain,” explained Heather L. Feltman, director of Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA Domestic Disaster Response.
Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA Domestic Disaster Response are receiving "preliminary reports from the ELCA community and the community at large impacted by Ivan. A section of the Interstate 10 bridge in the panhandle of Florida collapsed. We have been notified that some ELCA churches are sitting in three feet of water. To date, ELCA pastors and their families have suffered no loss of life," she added.
The Lutheran Disaster Response is a joint ministry of the ELCA and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Jim Kirk, a Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Team member from Naples, FL said there were severe damages to Presbyterian buildings.
“This is unprecedented in terms of a natural disaster’s impact specifically on the Presbyterian family — churches and pastors and congregations,” said Kirk. “We had 11 pastors in the presbytery who were directly impacted in significant ways.”
Ultimately, the leaders in the Presbyterian Church USA offered words of encouragement to those affected by the storm, and called on the rest of the church to provide help in the midst of tragedy.
“The message I will take to the rest of the church is that there is hard work to be done in rebuilding both the physical and the emotional and the spiritual church and homes of people here,” said the PCUSA moderator Rick Ufford-Chase. “And that we need as a church to continue to take that seriously over the next couple of years. It’s not a one-week event. I’ve heard that message clearly, and it’s one of the things I came to learn.”
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA also gave encouraging words to the congregants through a Sept 17 letter.
"Know that you are in the thoughts and prayers of your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You do not face the fear, the uncertainty and the devastation alone. We are with you ... and in our gifts to the Lutheran Disaster Response,” said Hanson.